Reel Shorts | Observe and Report

10 04 2009

Observe and Report

With less than a month before the summer movie season starts, studios continue to clear useless inventory off of their shelves. Our guest reviewer from The Colorado Springs Gazette, Brandon Fibbs, takes a look at the wretched dark mall “comedy, ” “Observe and Report.”

Walking out of “Observe and Report,” I was torn between categorical loathing and perverse admiration. Sure, the movie contains some truly bizzaro, funny moments, but at what cost? To find them, one must sift through some of the darkest and ugliest cinematic excrement. Observe and Report is a film that invites — insists even — that we laugh at the very worst in ourselves. At one point in the movie, a character hides in a closet so he can eagerly overhear another being given some bad news. But halfway through the scene, he emerges, long-faced. “I thought this was going to be funny,” he says. “But it’s actually kind of sad.” Exactly.

Seth Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, a rent-a-cop who still lives with his perpetually drunk mother (Celia Weston) and fantasizes about being a vigilante hero. Ronnie patrols the Forest Ridge Mall looking for excuses to exercise violence. He dreams of one day trading in his fists and Taser for a real gun. The badge that would come with it would merely be for decoration. After a flasher begins accosting women in the mall parking lot, including Ronnie’s crush Brandi (Anna Faris), a snooty but hot make-up counter clerk who doesn’t show the security guard the time of day, Ronnie sees an opportunity for personal glory and a chance to get the girl. When this single-minded pursuit pits him against Police Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), Ronnie must go to extremes to nab the flasher before the real cops do.

“Observe and Report” is what you get when you decide to transform “Taxi Driver” into a comedy. Don’t think of it as a satire. That is not its intent. Think of it more as a repackaging of the same warped and bitter musings. Only with laughs. But “Taxi Driver,” Scorsese’s masterpiece about alienation and castrated masculinity, already strains the bounds of darkly comedic credulity. Observe and Report isn’t a dark comedy — it is simply dark…and a comedy. The humor comes from a twisted place, sure to leave viewers with an odd, indefinable aftertaste. Much of that has to do with its lead character, a man of belligerent dynamism and thoughtless action caught in a world of stagnation. The title of the film says it all: observe and report. Take no action.

Ronnie is a truly repellent protagonist. Unlike Kevin James’ “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” the bi-polar Ronnie does not have naive delusions of grandeur, he simply has delusions, period. Though the filmmakers give us a few moments here and there to evoke our sympathy, they are well aware they have created a nearly irredeemable character. Ronnie is a true psychopath in waiting. He is the sort of man who, when he eventually breaks, will probably do it while clutching a semi-automatic weapon, using it on all those who ever dared to snicker at him behind his back. Contemptuous of authority (except his own), Ronnie’s mind roils with hate and half-truths. He mistakes rage and aggression for some sort of perverted display of real masculinity. He is, perhaps, no more dark or twisted than “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle, but then again, Bickle wasn’t playing for laughs. “Observe and Report” takes Ronnie to a dark place, so dark, in fact, that the film veers completely out of the realm of comedy, and for the span of a gore-splattered gun shot, actually becomes the very film it is emulating. And still we’re expected to laugh.

Grade: D+




2 responses

10 04 2009
Observe And Report

[…] Observe and Report Review « FilmGordon […]

26 04 2009

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